Give a Reason

January 31, 2017 - 2 minutes read

I think of myself as an independent person and I don’t like anyone to question my actions. This is one of the reasons I began my own business fifty years ago. If I leave the office at 4:00 pm, I don’t want to explain myself or have someone ask, “Where are you going?” or “Why are you leaving early?”

But sometimes I carry my need for independence to an extreme and this can be self-defeating.  With experience, I’ve come to realize that it can often be a mistake not to explain myself.

I read a study years ago, but only recently appreciated that it applies to me.

The study concluded that you have more success achieving your goals with people if you give them a reason for what you are doing. If you want to cut in line to use the copy machine and say to others in front of you, “I need to use the copy machine,” you will succeed less than half of the time.  But, if you simply add a reason, even a reason like, “I’m in a hurry,” people will let you cut in line more than eighty percent of the time

To me, that’s strange.  “I’m in a hurry” doesn’t add anything.  Of course you’re in a hurry, it’s self-evident.  That’s why you asked in the first place.  But as someone who has gone through life only occasionally giving an explanation for my actions, I think the study is right. So, whenever I can, I now provide an explanation. I suggest you consider doing the same — it isn’t very difficult and can definitely help others to cooperate.

Think about it.  If I write, “I’m finished writing this blog” without a reason you might feel unsatisfied or deserted.  If I simply add, “I’m tired,” or “my feet hurt,” you would more likely think, “Okay.”

I’m finished writing this blog now because I’m hungry and dinner is ready.


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